Friday, May 29, 2009

Weapons of Mass Doltishness

I've always had a belief (or hope, maybe) that people are inherently good. But days like today convince me that people are also inherently gullible and if not stupid, at least lacking in common sense.

Here I am at a client this morning. A successful accountant with her own business. I fix some problems with her computer ... nothing major. Before we're done, she asks me to take a look at a specific e-mail that she's having problems forwarding. It's an e-mail offering a free computer if you forward the e-mail on to 8 people:

She knows it's legit because a friend that forwarded it to her says it's legit.

Here we are, a good 15+ years into the heydey of the World Wide Web, with hoaxes and scams from the very beginning. Yet seemingly intelligent people will buy into absolutely anything they are told, especially if a friend forwards it to them. It's no wonder that hoaxes and phishing scams are still prevalent. People are stupid. It's pretty simple people. Let the following guide you:

  • If someone forwards something to you, immediately assume it's bullshit.

  • If someone tells you to forward something on, don't.

  • If someone tells you something is legit or "for real", it's not.

  • You are not risking your life by breaking a chain e-mail ... you are only helping the world's bandwidth.

  • If you are looking for something that is "free", I'll give you some free advice -- nothing is free.

  • It takes about 2 seconds to refute any scam e-mail that you get. Take the 2 seconds to Google the title of your e-mail or go to It will save you the $60+ that you will pay me to come over and tell you that you are a moron (but in a nice way).

Is it any wonder that so many people bought into WMD's?

"For every credibility gap there is a gullibility fill." -- Richard Clopton

"Quackery has no friend like gullibility." -- Proverb


Sadie Lou said...

Dan and I both have a nameless family member that send us mail forwards. Dan's family member sends us the "your child is in danger" type forwards with a subject line of "PLEASE READ THIS TO SAVE YOUR CHILD"S LIFE!"
and my family member is the one that sends the "This is TOOOO Funny" subject line.
Why are there certain people that are prone to these and not others? I think it's people that don't browse the internet for themselves and basically just use their computers for email.

dbackdad said...

I'm not sure. My brother, who went to school for computers, has worked in the field, and is not a complete idiot (though the jury is still out on that .... :-) ), is prone to sending me these type of e-mails also.

It's like the quote I put up ... "for every credibility gap, there is a gullibility fill". I think if some people are not intellectually curious or don't have some person (or institution) who is a voice of reason in their life, they will look for things to believe in.

Dan said...

I actually like finding the scam emails on and then forwarding them back to the previous mailing list.
I'm pretty surprised that more people don't get really annoyed with chain mail because I, personally, do not want my email visible to 100 people I don't even know.
People NEVER use the BCC field when doing group emails which *really* irks me.

Laura said...

Dan: I do the SAME thing. I once got an angry email back from a relative saying, basically, "who has time to look all this up and verify" - and that was in response to one of the most racist emails I've ever received regarding immigration statistics (all bogus of course). So I quite curtly pointed out that if she forwards stuff like that on, she should realize that it ultimately reflects back on her and that her lack of caring whether or not what she is forwarding is true reflects on her character as well. That went over REAL well...

why is it that a simple concept like - you can't track a forwarded email - just never seems to get through???